Adolescents Becoming Adults: Attributes for Adulthood

By Scheer, Scott D.; Unger, Donald G. et al. | Adolescence, Spring 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Adolescents Becoming Adults: Attributes for Adulthood


Scheer, Scott D., Unger, Donald G., Brown, Margaret B., Adolescence


Adolescent cognitive task completion (identity vs. role confusion), event timing (on or off-time), and sequencing (normative or nonnormative order) are important for later life adjustment (Elder, 1987; Erikson, 1960). These are important pathways in which adult status, its meaning, and the later life course are determined. In addition to age (Featherman, 1985), the timing of pregnancy, marriage, obtaining a first job, and completing school have been commonly used as markers for adult status (Elder, 1975; Modell, Furstenberg, & Hershberg, 1976; Neugarten & Datan, 1973). Also shown to have consequences for the timing of adult status have been occupational attainment and earnings (Hogan, 1980), welfare dependency (Card & Wise, 1978), and divorce (Furstenberg, 1976). Youths' perceptions of when they become adults may also influence their sexual, economic, community, and political behavior since people who perceive themselves as adults are likely to behave with greater levels of maturity and responsibility (Scheer & Palkovitz, 1994).

Research has yet to clearly identify the end of adolescence and the onset of adulthood, particularly from the perspective of youth. Specific attributions or cognitive intentions have been largely ignored even though they are suggested to influence social status (marriage and parenthood) and adult roles (Marini, 1984; Hogan & Astone, 1986). Particularly in Western cultures, cognitions are likely to be important in determining adulthood since the transition is more often subjective and individually defined (Arnett & Taber, 1994). The objectives of this research were to determine: (a) the age when adolescents perceived they were or would become adults; (b) the most important factors adolescents attributed to becoming adults; and (c) the implications these attributions had for motivating youth to successfully achieve adult status.

METHOD

Subjects

Participants in this research were 113 adolescents (63% females, 37% males). Their ages ranged from 13-19, with a mean age of 16.5 years. The majority of the sample were white (84%); others were African-American (12%), Hispanic (2%), or Asian (2%).

Instruments

To determine adult status, adolescents were asked if they considered themselves to be adults, and when they realized they were adults or, if they were not yet adults, when they thought they would be. They were then asked to mark one of eight options to indicate the most important factor or attribute in becoming adults. The categories were generated from Scheer and Palkovitz's (1994) qualitative, open-ended analysis (n = 248) of reasons given by young adults for attaining adult status (see Table 1). Another category was also provided where youth could write in their own answers.

Two other measures were used: (a) Rosenberg's (1965) Self-Esteem Scale consisting of 10 items (Cronbach alpha = .91) scored on a Likert scale ranging from one (strongly disagree) to four (strongly agree); and (b) the Center for Epidemologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), a 20-item (Cronbach alpha = .90) measure of depressive symptoms with a Likert scale ranging from one (never) to four (often).

TABLE 1

Adolescents' attributes for becoming adults
by percents and gender.

                            Total Sample    Females      Males
Attributes                    %      N     %      N     %     N

Cognitive Related

1. Reaching maturity         -37.2    42   42.3   30   28.6   12
taking responsibility
for my actions

2. Making my own decisions    14.2    16    8.5     6  23.8   10

3. Multiple responses(1)      20.0    23   18.3    13  23.8   10
(reaching maturity x
making own decisions x
financial independence)

Event Related

4. Financially independent -  12.4    14   14.1    10   9. 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Adolescents Becoming Adults: Attributes for Adulthood
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?